Tim Armstrong, AOL And A Bit Of History
We all know that Tim Armstrong is now CEO of AOL. I do not know Tim. I am sure he is extremenly bright and of course has a great track record at Google. Tim did a great job at Google, but then again being head of ad sales at Google is not unlike David Ortiz batting in front of Manny Ramirez of the Red Sox. Ortiz was a great hitter until Manny got dumped by the Sox and banished to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Ortiz then became just a so-so hitter. In other words Tim might be great at ad sales at Google, but he just lost the Google product to back him up (or the protection of Manny Ramirez, the best pure hitter baseball has witnessed in years). It reminds me of some Yahoo history. After Yahoo went public and the world went agog over Yahoo, Tim Koogle was brought in as CEO of Yahoo. Everyone thought Tim was a genius, but in reality it was the Yahoo juggernaut that made Tim so bright. Tim has never been heard of since he left or was pushed out of Yahoo. Or take Terry Semel. Semel was brought into Yahoo from Hollywood as CEO just as paid search was taking off. Yahoo was also in the midst of buying Overture (a leader in paid search). Lo and behold, Yahoo buys Overture, paid search becomes a bonanza and Yahoo's revenues numbers go through the roof. Semel appears to be a genius. The genius part was just lucky timing. In fact Semel thought he was so smart he passed on buying Google. What a mistake! Google started to destroy Yahoo and soon Semel was banished from Yahoo. Terry had some good timing and really bad timing, but in the end he walked away with $500 million and most remembered for not buying Google.
Back to Tim Armstrong. He has a rougher road to travel than Koogle or Semel. He has no chance of catching Luck. Instead he is getting a hodge podge of Web sites and lots of traffic. Most likely AOL will throw off cash as it slowly continues its path of deterioration. AOL's only chance of success is to drop the pretense of being a portal that matters and instead repackage the solid Web sites such as TMZ.com into verticals that by themselves might prove to be powerful brands or perhaps separate companies down the road. If nothing else this should be fun for Tim. He has made a boat load of money at Google and should now look at AOL as a great chance of thinking outside of the box as I have suggested above.
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